Read something that I found very disheartening today. It disheartens me because, once again, a man who insists that he is a man of God, reveals that he is more motivated by politics than he is by his faith. It also disheartens me because of the undue influence that personal faith has come to have on who we decide to support for political office.
On the first point, Franklin Graham’s father, the evangelist Billy Graham, is someone I respect, because while he did show his faith in a very public arena, and shared his faith openly with politicians from both parties, he never entered the realm of politics. He never encouraged support for one politician over another, at least not implicitly. I do not agree with his theology, but it’s hard to deny that his life showed him to be a decent man.
Now, his son appears on MSNBC throwing doubts on whether President Obama is a Christian. His reasoning? President Obama has said he is a Christian, but “he seems to be more concerned about them (Muslims) than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries”. Ah. Clearly, that is a solid reason to doubt someone’s faith. Because, of course, as Muslims, they obviously deserve less concern than Christians do. I mean, Jesus clearly taught that, right? Well, let’s not judge Franklin GRaham too hastily. Let’s see what he says about other candidates…
Rick Santorum – “His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.” Ok. Obviously perception is what really matter in questions of faith. I mean, if Rick Santorum wasn’t a man of faith, he couldn’t possibly have clear values on moral issues. Because, certainly Jesus never would have related a parable about a Samaritan showing more mercy than a Jewish man of faith to illustrate that outward proclamations of faith mean nothing unless you actually exercise those values in your daily life. I have my doubts about whether Rick Santorum is a man of faith, and they have far more to do with how he refuses to support initiatives that would assist the most vulnerable and poor among us.
And speaking of the Pharisees, who proclaimed their deep faith while hypocritically ignoring the basic commandments of that faith…
Newt Gingrich – “I think Newt is a Christian. At least he told me he is.” Well, there you go. Newt said so. But, wait… didn’t President Obama say he was a Christian? Oh, that’s right, but he appears to show more concern for Muslims. And what of Newt? He was divorced twice, had two affairs… where is the skepticism concerning his declaration of faith? It appears that Franklin Graham’s criteria concerning faith is malleable.
Franklin Graham finally gives us his definition of what it means to be a Christian. “For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith and we have trusted him as our lord and savior.” Ok. That makes sense. But there is one problem. No one has the ability to look into anyone else’s heart and determine whether they are a Christian or not. So, Franklin Graham, whether you like it or not, it’s not for you to say if President Obama is or isn’t a Christian. Case closed.
And that leads me to the second, and more troubling issue. When was it mandated that the person elected as President of the United States of America has to be a Christian, or even a man of faith? The truth – it’s not. In fact, it’s not even suggested. So, why do we, as citizens, feel the need to delve into a person’s faith when they run for this esteemed office? Well, one argument contends that a Christian person has values that mirror the majority of Americans. Interesting argument. And one needs only point again to the parable of the Good Samaritan to refute it. The Samaritan was not a Christian or a Jew or a man of faith. Yet, he showed greater mercy than the other men of faith who passed by the man at the side of the road. Faith does not make one more righteous than anyone else and it most certainly does not make one automatically qualified to hold public office. It is wrong to assume that someone who says they are a Christian is a better choice to lead the United States than someone who is not. If you use it as one part of a whole picture of a candidate, that’s reasonable. But it makes little sense to me disqualify an excellent leader based solely on his faith or lack of it.
The sad fact of the matter is that questions of faith have become political tools of attack. And the sad fact is that Franklin Graham is tarnishing his father’s legacy by using his pulpit in such a divisive fashion. As a man of faith, he should respect the man that God has seen fit to allow to serve as President. I was not a fan of President Bush and disagreed with his policies, but I respected him because of the office he held. President Obama’s concern toward Muslims is in the best interest of the United States of America, because it was a lack of understanding and a belief that “we” are somehow better than “them” that contributed to the strife in the first place. (And yes, that applies in both directions)
I know it is difficult to accept differences. It requires all of us to lay aside preconceived ideas and try to engage our brains. What bothers me most is that every time a man like Franklin Graham does something like this, it causes too many people to stop thinking. God gave us this incredible capacity for reason. It’s a sin that we don’t utilize it more often.